Student Paper: Respect by Dave Davis

The following paper was submitted by karate student Dave Davis as part of his 2nd Black Stripe test requirements on October 6, 2012.


Many years ago, I worked for a small family-owned company. The owner had a sign on the wall behind his desk that read, “Respect is earned, not given”. Over the years the words on that sign have often come to mind and I’ve reflected on them because there are always situations that involve respect and disrespect. Some people demand respect, and others are surprised when they are respected. Here are two statements where respect is specifically talked about in the Cuong Nhu Code of Ethics.

Code of Ethics #3 – All Members of Cuong Nhu are unified in spirit and respect each other and their instructors.

At our dojo, I see respect between students and instructors alike. I recall that as a beginning white belt, I was treated respectfully even though I knew nothing and was in horrible physical condition. Later, I learned that just choosing to come to class regularly put me in a different category than someone who chooses to spend the evening in front of the television eating bon bons. And I learned that this practice of respect continues to be interwoven throughout our dojo in other ways.
For instance, in class, it begins with wearing our gi’s. The gi is worn with respect, and must be kept clean and in good condition. The intent of wearing the gi is to put everyone on the same level, in that there are no fashion statements or economic class to be made. (They also cover a lot of muscle and/or flab). In other words, it puts each student, male and female alike, on a level playing field.
During class, respect is demonstrated in several other ways. We bow in quietly, and have several moments of meditation. Bowing is a Japanese custom for displaying respect, humility, and lack of arrogance. The senseis or teachers, who are in charge of the class, also encourage respect, as they assign “award” pushups to students showing disrespectful words or actions. Not only does this encourage respect for the teacher, but also for the other students, because their instruction time may be disrupted.
Additionally, when we work with each other, a certain amount of trust develops with our fellow students. We depend on our workout partner not to hurt us during the class, and this creates respect. Trust is an element of respect.

Code of Ethics #5 – All members should respect other styles of martial arts and only use martial arts technique for self-defense and to protect truth and reason.

This ethic has intrigued me since I first read it. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of styles and variations of martial arts, seven of which are blended to create Cuong Nhu. When O’ Sensei Ngo Dong created Cuong Nhu, I believe he gave much thought in choosing our combined martial arts over other styles. When he added this code, he must have realized that the members of Cuong Nhu might have the tendency to have a prideful approach of “we’re better than you because ….(insert “work harder”, “have better techniques”, “our techniques are more effective”, etc.)”. An attitude of disrespect toward students of another style of martial arts might lead it’s students to engage in petty fights, disparaging words or arguments with students and teachers from other styles.

Respect for martial arts itself is also implied. Because of the curriculum, there are many techniques that we practice that can cause physical harm and injury or even death to another human. Therefore, as we pass into the higher ranks, each student must respect the responsibility to only use martial arts techniques when absolutely necessary. This Cuong Nhu Code has clearly spelled it out that this is to be used only for self defense and to protect truth and reason. I interpret this to also include defense of another person who is being unfairly accosted.

I have been reading a book by Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan entitled Karate-Do: My Way of Life. This book is a compilation of short stories about situations and encounters that he was in, and he always tried to minimize attention to himself. This selfless way of life gained him respect in many places, including with the Emperor of Japan. In his later years, there is a story about how Funakoshi stayed late to a party (which was unusual for him) and was accosted by a mugger on the way home. He tried to de-escalate the encounter, but it was finally necessary to defend himself. In doing so, after the defense techniques, he intentionally inflicted additional pain to his assailant by grabbing a testicle. Funakoshi was ashamed of himself because he did more than was absolutely necessary to defend himself. Being humble also is an element of respect.

In summary, as I approach my test for my second black stripe, I close with the following quote, which I hope I demonstrate as a Cuong Nhu martial artist:

Respect is earned, honesty is appreciated, trust is gained, and loyalty is returned.” – author unknown.

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